Featured Poem – “Charlotte Unbound”

Charlotte Unbound
by Gwee Li Sui


Mr and Mrs Lim used to read well-loved classics
To little Charlotte to sow the seeds of aesthetics.
At five, she would fly to the Literature section
Of a library and soon – to great expectation –
She was reading the poets, some verses from each one.
Meanwhile, her teacher saw a different trend begun
And called her parents down to show how she was spelling
April with two Ls, tiger with a Y, then ending
Lines with dashes, would not use a capital letter…
So they stopped her nonsense, got her a piano teacher
For there was not just no future in Literature,
It was also mangling her English.


Charlotte Unbound pic

Reprinted by the author’s and publisher’s permissions, “Charlotte Unbound” and Gwee’s accompanying drawing appear in The Other Merlion and Friends by Gwee Li Sui (Landmark Books, Singapore).



Gwee Li Sui is a poet, a graphic artist, and a literary critic. His works of verse include Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), One Thousand and One Nights (2014), The Other Merlion and Friends (2015), and Who Wants to Buy an Expanded Edition of a Book of Poems? (2015). He wrote Singapore’s first full-length graphic novel in English, Myth of the Stone (1993), which has since been re-released in an expanded twentieth-anniversary edition. A familiar name in Singapore’s literary scene, he has written and lectured on a range of cultural subjects. He wrote FEAR NO POETRY!: An Essential Guide to Close Reading (2014) and edited Sharing Borders: Studies in Contemporary Singaporean-Malaysian Literature II (2009), Telltale: Eleven Stories (2010), Man/Born/Free: Writings on the Human Spirit from Singapore (2011), and Singathology: 50 New Writings by Celebrated Singaporean Writers (2015).


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.


  1. Donna Smith

    Reminds me of teachers who try to tell children that they HAVE to paint the sky blue, HAVE to make trees green and the sun yellow, and all within the lines. Wonderful poem and observation by Gwee Li Sui.


  2. Pingback: Charlotte Unbound | Gweek Culture: World of Terrifying Secret Opinions

  3. Pingback: The Fate of Singaporean Poultry | SINGAPORE POETRY

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